The last time the Toronto Marlies took on the Grand Rapids Griffins, it was an away-and-away in two different cites. Both games were won by the Marlies, but the most memorable was the first game, an outdoor game in front of about 15,000 people at Detroit’s Comerica Park, as part of the Winter Classic festivities. The weekend brought the Marlies to 3-0-0 against the Red Wings Affiliate, and tonight, they had an opportunity to call the season series a sweep. They did so, winning 4-1.
The first period offered nothing in the scoring department, and little in terms of excitement. Beyond a short span where both teams traded shots (5-4 Griffins), the Marlies had an 11-2 domination of the rest of the period, though few of the shots were viable scoring chances and more the result of three Toronto powerplays.
The second period started off on a much brighter note. The Marlies, still on that third powerplay were first to strike as TJ Brennan curled a wrist shot above Petr Mrazek just a minute into the period. Three minutes later, Josh Leivo streaked across the left wing and into centre, opting for the Kessel-esque snapshot to put home his 10th goal of the season. A late hit on Jerry D’Amigo was initially concerning, but he after struggling to get to the bench, he was quick to return. Grand Rapids had control of most of the period in terms of possession, but Drew MacIntyre stood tall to keep his team up by two after forty minutes.
The Griffins appeared to take initial control of the third, and their seventh shot of the period was the first to beat MacIntyre, as the Marlies struggled to get out of their zone. Landon Ferraro took advantage of this on Grand Rapids’ 7th shot of the period, and closed the gap to 2-1. That didn’t last very long, however. About five minutes later, Brandon Kozun streaked into the offensive zone and ripped a wrister into the back of the net to restore the two goal lead. Jerry D’Amigo added an empty netter to seal the deal.
- Drew MacIntyre was in net, playing his 35th game of the season (leading the AHL). After getting pulled on Wednesday, he pulled out a dominant performance tonight, stopping 41 of 42 shots. One of his best performances of the year.
- The Marlies were outshot 33-12 in the final two periods. A bit concerning, but Steve Spott feels it’s an issue of fatigue and given the amount of games they’ve played of late, is likely right. These huge gaps don’t happen all that often with this team, after all.
- Sam Carrick was scratched tonight due to an injury.
- Josh Leivo returned from his hip flexor injury, and gave a scare after being slow to get up after an early first period hit, but quickly returned and looked fairly impressive in the process.
- Spencer Abbott suffered a lower body injury in the second period and did not return.
- TJ Brennan’s 20th goal makes him the first defenceman in the AHL to hit the mark. Second place? Mark Flood with 10.
- Andrew MacWilliam’s hip check on Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan was about as old time hockey as you can get. He’s an absolutely vicious hitter when he’s on his game.
- The powerplay looked like itself today, and reintegrated Leivo into the first unit. The Brennan goal gave them a 1/3 result.
- The penalty kill was flawless, successfully killing all three Toronto infractions.
- The crowd wasn’t too hot tonight. Kind of surprising when there isn’t much Toronto sports competition (the Raptors play on the road an hour after the end of this game) and nothing significant going on in town, but the game was played in front of (an exaggerated) 5237 people.
- The Marlies play their next game on Sunday, against the Hamilton Bulldogs. It’s a 3PM start, and like every other game this season, will be at home.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com